Starscape Festival, Fort Armistead Park, Baltimore, MD – 6/5
After the final day of the Ultra Music Festival in Miami this past March, English DJ/producer John Digweed played a late night set at the nearby club The Vagabond for those revelers looking for just a little more fun before calling it quits. And as the clock crept past 4AM and the crowd showed no sign of fatigue, Digweed threw in a sample from Whodini’s “The Freaks Come Out at Night,” and I thought to myself that truer words have never been spoken of the hardcore EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene.
But while Ultra undoubtedly draws a circus of crazies to celebrate the end of the Winter Music Conference, this summer’s 12th Annual Starscape Festival may have surpassed Ultra in weirdness intensity. With a large portion of festival patrons sporting furry boots, fishnet stockings, heavy makeup, and candy necklaces, stepping inside the grounds at Baltimore’s Fort Armistead Park could be quite a jarring experience. And because Starscape is only a one day festival, running from 2PM on June 5 until sunrise on June 6, all the freaks and weirdos have no need for energy conservation and can rave as hard as their malnourished bodies will allow for the festival’s duration.
But while you might get some icky rave goo on you by spending too much time in the “bass arena” or the dance tent, the event producers did manage to pull together some of the best names in live electronic music today to play the main and beach stages.
Warming up the main stage was Baltimore’s own Segway who pulled a surprisingly dense crowd during their early afternoon set in the scorching heat that included a 23-minute medley of their original tunes “Dark Crystal” and “Eggface Scrambleplant.”
And as the sun lowered on the Baltimore harbor and a record breaking 10,000 people filtered into the festival, the artists on the main stage delivered an onslaught of performances that were nothing short of spectacular.
Chicago trio Future Rock delivered a hearty dose of their driving compositions before The New Deal took the stage and carried the audience into the sunset with mind-boggling grooves.
Then graduating from last years’ performance on the Beach Stage, Lotus destroyed with a powerful show that included notable hits like “Tarasque” and “Greet the Mind.”
And while I think that Pretty Lights’ highly anticipated performance could have included a more diverse set list, he still nonetheless kept the energy high (especially with his opening tune “Up and Down I Go”) before the headlining performance by The Disco Biscuits began after 1AM.
And as The Biscuits took the stage and bassist Marc Brownstein greeted the audience with a cartoonish “What’s up Starscape!” the festival’s oddities were in full effect. Strange looking patrons stretched as far as the eye could see, frantic fans rushed to the front of the stage sloshing beer on those close by, and the faint of heart rested by the water in a foggy stupor. But for The Biscuits, now four year Starscape veterans, the bizarre scene was simply business as usual as they asked the crowd what time sunrise was before opening with the new tune “Flashmob.” The first set was quality, featuring a heavy “Orch Theme” sandwiched between two pieces of “Helicopters” and a nice set closing “Mr. Don,” but it wasn’t quite up to par with the standard they’ve set at the festival in past years.
But after visiting Rusko’s insanely packed performance at The Beach Stage during Biscuits’ set break, the trans-fusion all-stars retook the stage and threw down a second set that was positively awe inspiring. After opening with “Rivers” the Biscuits pounded into “Mindless Dribble” whose silky outro jam landed in a fiery “Tricycle” with two distinct peaks. The progression then clumsily fell into “Astronaut,” which then drove directly into a slammin’ inverted “Confrontation” before Brownstein bounced the jam back into the suspended in the air section of “Astronaut.” And just when the sky was clearing and the dilated pupils of the crowd were adjusting to the Baltimore sunrise, The Biscuits mashed the audience’s faces with a huge set closing “Morph Dusseldorf.”
And as I exited the premises after 6AM and looked at the looks of exhausted confusion on the faces of the police officers assigned to the festival, I thought that while Starscape is without doubt one of the strangest places you’ll ever go, it’s nonetheless a place worth going. Yes, it’s extremely weird, and yes you probably wouldn’t want to interact with most of the other festival-goers on any other day of the year, but if you can let go of your inhibitions for one day and get weird with the rest of ‘em, then Starscape is one hell of a cultural experience…not to mention one hell of a good time.